03 October 2005

On Harriet Miers and 'Judicial Temperament'

Today I've been listening to lots of talk on the recent nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. On both the left and right I've heard a similar refrain (although their conclusions often differ): “We need to know what sort of things she thinks before we can evaluate her desirability as a Supreme Court Justice.”

On the surface, that sounds like a smart and reasonable thing to say, but something strikes me as 'off' about that line of thinking.

Do I support a judge because he or she is likely to agree with me?

Put another way - who is interpreting the Constitution here? Me or her?

The conversation seems to indicate that any given commentator has their own opinion of Constitutional interpretation and what they really want is to find a judge who will carry their interpretation into the court room, as opposed to thinking that what we really need is to find someone with demonstrated wisdom, courage, and intelligence...probably in that order...and let the Constitutional interpretation follow. The line of thinking is one where the commentator concludes, perhaps accurately - perhaps not, that they (the commentator) possesses the wisdom / courage / intelligence / experience / education to interpret the Constitution themselves...in fact, they've already done the hard work as they type out their weekly columns. So all we really need is somebody in a black robe who will listen to me.

It seems another case where our society lacks any shred of submission to proper authority, that we are all deeply vain in these matters, and there is no recognition of wisdom for wisdom's sake. It's a shame. :(

That said, I'm totally aware of a feeling, particularly among conservatives, that the last 50 years have shown a weakness in the judiciary's ability to restrain themselves to their job. That presumably wise / courageous / intelligent judges can come up with seemingly idiotic decisions. So I get it - nobody wants to appoint the devil they don't know, but somehow this just seems like the structure is out of whack.

Two more things while I'm on this topic:

  • I'm encouraged that Mrs. Miers is reportedly a strong and sincere Christian. I care about that more than her political leanings. If I have faith in God's ability to lead His people, then I need to have faith in God's ability to lead her...regardless of her contribution to Al Gore's campaign.

  • It seems that she is seen as a "weak" candidate. Rush thought she was a pick from a position of weakness. But perhaps another idea - maybe she's a whipping boy (is that the right metaphor?) Perhaps she's being set-up to take a lashing from the Democrats - in order to expend all their ammo and energy - so that the "real" candidate can come next, a kind of straw man who is designed to fail


matt said...

Thanks for the editorial. I haven't kept up with the news today, so this was the first that I've heard of it. Plus, I like to read your take on things. I'll be checking back.

TheMightyQuinn said...

Interesting take on things, though with all the given opinions on constitutional interpretation it rather begs the question is there a right way of interpreting law? Is there an original intent in the constitution that requires strict interpretation or do we take a more post-modern view that the constitution is more of a changeing document that needs to be interpreted for our modern times.
Determining what a potential Justice "Thinks" will help distinguish what his/her views are on interpretation and then argueing out which view is in fact the correct view.
I hope that is coherent and relevant. I'm not that proficient of a writer so forgive me if it doesn't make much sense or strays to far from your point.
At any rate, good post and welcome to blogger. Matt sent me the link to your blog and hope to read more from you soon.
Take care and God Bless :)